WASHINGTON – Some progress is being made in Iraq,but the country is a long way from uniting its warring factions – a key factor in stabilizing the area.
That's what a panel assembled by The Brookings Institution concluded during a discussion Thursday at The National Press Club. Analyzing the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus,lead military commander in Iraq,and Ryan Crocker,U.S. ambassador to Iraq,the group probed different strategies get the war-torn country on its feet.
The surge in troops has had some impact in Iraq,and as about 30,000 soldiers are brought home throughout the coming year,it will be interesting to see how the situation in Iraq changes,said Kenneth Pollack,a senior fellow and director of research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. It's unclear whether the somewhat decreased violence and calmer areas in Iraq will remain that way.
Although the sure has provided extra troops,which have done some good,the movement has failed to meet its original goal,said Philip Gordon,senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at The Brookings Institution.
“It's fair to say the surge is not achieving its stated goals,” he said,adding that the original purpose of the surge was to provide more time for the Iraq's factions to come together and hammer out a plan for reconciliation.
To get Iraqi citizens to take an active role in rebuilding the country,the U.S. must work to make them believe in its mission. If most Iraqis believe the U.S. will pull out and leave the country in turmoil,they won't be as apt to take part in the movement to overhaul the country,said Peter Rodman,a senior fellow for The Brookings Institution.
“If you think the Americans are going for the exits,you are going to hanker down and wait for the free-for-all,” he said.
Rebuilding Iraq will take the support of its people – nothing will be accomplished if people don't want to take part in that process,said Susan Rice,a senior fellow for The Brookings Institution. Jobs that could be done by Iraqis are going to private contractors and other companies from outside the country,which doesn't help the country's economy,she added.
Iraq should produce and export more oil in order to get some cash coming into the country,said Bruce Riedel,a senior fellow for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Although Iraq can receive more money from the oil it produces,because of increase oil prices,it isn't taking advantage of its greatest resource.
But before many of Iraq's problems can be solved,one overlying issue must be worked out.
That is the raging sectarian civil war is tearing the country apart,Rice said. The surge has not been a solution for that problem; it was a counterinsurgency tactic aimed at Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“In the context of civil war,it's not clear who the good guys and the bad guys are,” she said.
The U.S. is not doing all it can to stop the civil war that rages throughout Iraq,said Michael O'Hanlon,a senior fellow for The Brookings Institution. All the U.S. has done is put up barriers and suppress the civil war,not solve issues among Iraq's factions.
With the approaching 2008 presidential election,President Bush must start to work to stabilize Iraq so that his successor has options once he or she takes office,said Peter Rodman,a senior fellow for The Brookings Institution. For better or worse,the next president will inherit this situation. If that person is not left with any options,they may pull out of Iraq and blame Bush,he added.